Serological autoantibodies as diagnostic cancer biomarkers - A review

Document Type

Journal Article


American Association for Cancer Research


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Medical Sciences



Grant Number

NHMRC Number : 1013349, 1046711


Zaenker, P. , & Ziman, M. R. (2013). Serological Autoantibodies as Diagnostic Cancer Biomarkers - A Review. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, 22(12), 2161-81. Availablehere


Current diagnostic techniques used for the early detection of cancers are successful but subject to detection bias. A recent focus lies in the development of more accurate diagnostic tools. An increase in serologic autoantibody levels has been shown to precede the development of cancer disease symptoms. Therefore, autoantibody levels in patient blood serum have been proposed as diagnostic biomarkers for early-stage diagnosis of cancers. Their clinical application has, however, been hindered by low sensitivity, specificity, and low predictive value scores. These scores have been shown to improve when panels of multiple diagnostic autoantibody biomarkers are used. A five-marker biomarker panel has been shown to increase the sensitivity of prostate cancer diagnosis to 95% as compared with 12.2% for prostate-specific antigen alone. New potential biomarker panels were also discovered for lung, colon, and stomach cancer diagnosis with sensitivity of 76%, 65.4%, and 50.8%, respectively. Studies in breast and liver cancer, however, seem to favor single markers, namely α-2-HS-glycoprotein and des-γ-carboxyprothrombin with sensitivities of 79% and 89% for the early detection of the cancers. The aim of this review is to discuss the relevance of autoantibodies in cancer diagnosis and to outline the current methodologies used in the detection of autoantibodies. The review concludes with a discussion of the autoantibodies currently used in the diagnosis of cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, colon, stomach, and liver. A discussion of the potential future use of autoantibodies as diagnostic cancer biomarkers is also included in this review.